School staff must be tested or get vaccine
State promises resources to help implement mandate
August 23, 2021
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Gov. Gavin Newsom has mandated that all school staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to weekly testing in an attempt to increase vaccination rates and keep schools safe as delta variant cases continue to rise.
The governor announced the new policy Aug. 11, making California the first state in the country to require proof of vaccination or testing for teachers and all other school staff. The mandate was effective the next day and schools have until Oct. 15 to comply with the order.
“We think this is the right thing to do and we think this is a sustainable way to keeping our schools open and to address the number one anxiety that parents like myself have … and that is knowing that the schools are doing everything in their power to keep our kids safe,” Newsom said.
ACSA Executive Director Wes Smith joined ACSA’s Legislative Lunch Break program the day of the announcement to give initial reaction to the mandate.
“It gives me hope that we are elevating the right conversation,” Smith said about vaccination for adults. “It also gives me hope that we have labor and management working together on this, and that we’re looking for solutions and not identifying our problems.”
Smith said the Newsom administration reached out to ACSA prior to the announcement to gather feedback on vaccinating school staff. Smith shared concerns he gathered from ACSA members, including making it a mandate (not bargainable) and the need for the state to provide support in the form of personnel to implement a vaccine mandate.
“Our next step is making sure these promises are realized in the field,” he said. ACSA President Charlie Hoffman shared that in his area of the state (Region 1), vaccination rates are lower, which will put larger personnel demands on small districts that already have fewer resources.
“There’s considerable anxiety among folks that aren’t already vaccinated, and so we’re anticipating a lot of testing,” he said.
The news came just two weeks after Newsom announced the same protocol for state employees, which was followed one week later with a requirement for healthcare workers. A handful of California school districts had already begun to require vaccinations or regular testing.
Newsom announced the mandate from Carl B. Munck Elementary School in the Oakland Unified School District, which just the day prior had begun requiring its staff, contractors and volunteers to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing.
“That decision was made to ensure that we are doing our part to keep our schools safe as well as the broader community,” said Oakland USD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell, during the press conference. “We prioritize safety, both physical safety and the socio-emotional safety of our community, and we felt this was an important step in that direction.”
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